They are numbers that should make anyone pause. One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, but it’s estimated that just one in three Canadians who could benefit from mental health support actually receive it.
Addressing this unmet need and improving access to mental health services has become a priority for patients, families, and care providers alike in our country. Indeed, expanding mental health and addictions services was an important focus in the latest phase of the Ontario government’s Action Plan for Health Care released in February. Mental health and addictions is also a strategic aim in the Integrated Health Service Plan, 2013 – 2016, from the Central East Local Health Integration Network.
At The Scarborough Hospital (TSH), our Mental Health program has implemented a number of pioneering approaches to help broaden the treatment options available to patients, both within and beyond the bricks and mortar of our hospital walls.
Earlier this year, we launched a revamped version of Internet-Assisted Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT). TSH is the first and only hospital in Canada to deliver iCBT in an adult outpatient setting. Originally developed in partnership with Queen’s University, iCBT uses traditional (face-to-face) CBT modules adapted for email, which patients can complete on their own time and email back to the therapist. The therapist then reviews the work and provides written feedback to the patient.
The refreshed iCBT2 version offers more substantive content, interaction, and videos, and now only takes six weeks to complete instead of the previous eight. As a result, about 90 per cent of people who join iCBT now complete the program – an impressive improvement from its previous rate of approximately 10 per cent. What’s more, those who have completed the program have shown significant reductions in their symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Our new Mental Health App Library is another first-in-Canada initiative for patients. This library consists of 18 TSH physician- and therapist-approved apps for Android and Apple operating systems. Patients can now access trusted apps that provide support for anxiety, relaxation, depression, sleep, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The free apps complement prescribed treatment plans.
TSH’s Mental Health program also works closely with our inpatient programs across the hospital to deliver psychiatric consultation services. One immensely successful example of this is the Psychosocial Oncology Support Team, or ‘POST’, as it is known. Through POST, oncology inpatients receive mental health consultations and care. As well, patients of our Oncology Clinic have access to several registered nurses and two general practitioners specializing in mental health issues, who provide both group and one-on-one support services. There is also an outpatient clinic through the Mental Health program that offers psychological interventions, such as mindfulness therapy.
When you consider that the incidence of depression among cancer patients can be anywhere from two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half times greater than the general population, and that over 70 per cent of these patients do not receive care for their mental health issues, POST is clearly helping to address an important care gap.
These recent advances build on the already wide array of mental health services and supports available at TSH. The program operates 50 inpatient beds at our Birchmount campus, including six psychiatric intensive care beds, eight seniors’ mental health beds, and 36 acute care beds. Individual and group outpatient programming is available at our Birchmount campus and through two satellite locations.
In addition, a number of community programs are run in partnership with local organizations. This includes the Shared Care partnership with the Central East GTA Family Health Team; a Justice and Mental Health program which, among other services, supports the Toronto East Detention Centre in release planning; and registered nurses who support the Toronto Police Services Mobile Crisis Intervention Team.
Truly effective mental health care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Our goal is to extend the reach of our Mental Health program through both traditional and non-traditional methods in order to meet the unique needs of each and every patient.